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Canon 6D versus Sony A7

The Canon EOS 6D and the Sony Alpha A7 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2012 and October 2013. The 6D is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 20 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 6D vs Sony A7

The physical size and weight of the Canon 6D and the Sony A7 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 6D – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Canon 6D vs Sony A7
Compare 6D versus A7 top
Compare 6D and A7 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is notably smaller (26 percent) than the Canon 6D. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the 6D. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (6D) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 6D gets 1090 shots out of its LP-E6 battery, while the A7 can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Canon 6D» 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Sony A7« 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Canon 6D Mark II« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i
Canon 7D II« » 5.9 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 32.1 oz 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i i
Canon 70D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i
Canon 5D Mark III« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 1D C« » 6.2 in 6.5 in 3.3 in 54.5 oz 1120 Y Apr 2012 14,999- i
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 19 percent) than the 6D, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 6D vs Sony A7

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7 is 1 percent smaller. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 6D and Sony A7 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the A7 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 20 MP of the 6D. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 6.57μm for the 6D). However, it should be noted that the A7 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the 6D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.

6D versus A7 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 has a markedly higher DXO score than the 6D (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 2.1 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.1 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 6D» Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082
Sony A7« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788
Canon 7D II« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.411.8108270
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Canon 1D C« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34564K/24p----
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A7 provides a faster frame rate than the 6D. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 6D vs Sony A7

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the 6D has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 6D and Sony A7 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 6D»optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n
Sony A7«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n
Canon 7D II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 8000 10.0 Y n
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Canon 1D C« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n

Both the 6D and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 6D was replaced by the Canon 6D Mark II, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Canon 6D vs Sony A7

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 6D better than the Sony A7 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Advantages of the Canon EOS 6D:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1090 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2012).

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 20MP), which boosts linear resolution by 10%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 1040k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 145x111mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 296g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (19 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

6D 04:13 A7

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 6D or the A7. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Canon 6D»HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Sony A7«HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i
Canon 7D II« »Rec84/1004/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,799 i i
Canon 70D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 1D C« »----- Apr 2012 14,999- i
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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